I made myself get over to an event at LACMA back in January of this year, and am so glad I did. Korean-born artist Youngmin Lee gave a demonstration of bojagi making, and brought with her a glittering lode of stunning samples (which, after the demonstration, she allowed us to t o u c h ).
I don’t have good examples to show here of the neatly folded wrapping styles, though you may be able to make them out at the rear of the photo above (click on these images to see them a little larger). Below is an example I was better able to relate to—something I could imagine doing and using every day.
The talk was fascinating. I think that’s mostly due to the artist’s passion and enthusiasm for her craft and her culture. The finished pieces, the exquisitely framed samplers and the lengths of Korean-made silk, linen and (especially) ramie, were all presented to us as beloved treasures.
Korea’s bojagi traditions travel along two main streams: the frugal saving of the tiniest fabric scraps by commoners (Min-bo or Chogakbo are most well-known), and the luxurious, specially made wrappings commissioned by the court (Kung-bo).
To my untrained eye, Lee’s work appears to traverse both, but she also seems to take the most delight in the more down-to-earth piece-work of everyday people. In these, if you’ve seen traditional American quilts, you’ll recognize more than a few patterns.
She recalled to us how her mother always made sure to put a bojagi in her purse when she went out shopping.
Devotees to Tiny Details as well as Hangers-on to the Eensiest of Scraps may be as fascinated as I was by the traditional fabric embellishments Lee demonstrated, including “pine nuts” (JakSsi, top image) and “bat knots” (BakGiMaeDup, below).
Above all, both the demonstration and the chance to riffle through the fabrics were gloriously sensuous experiences. I cannot name a sense that was neglected. I went home sated and inspired.If you’re curious to learn more, visit Youngmin Lee’s website, where she has a gallery, event and class info, and an instructional DVD. I also highly recommend this excellent and detailed PDF document about bojagi, from history to how-to, by Chunghie Lee, Bojagi and Beyond.
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